by ali on August 1st, 2013
Canton Tea Club Week 44: Genmaicha
This week we are excited to introduce our new collection of Japanese teas and also to begin our five week exploration of Japanese tea with the Tea Club.
This small collection has been months in the making and we’ve found some great teas for you. Firstly a fantastic range of everyday organic green teas: Bancha, Sencha, Genmaicha and Matcha; we also have two carefully chosen premium green teas that we believe are the best available: Sencha Midori No Kaori and Gyokuro Matsu No Tsukasa. Finally we have a very unusual new tisane to add to the collection, which is Sakura or salt pickled cherry blossoms. I am sure you will love the range and hope you will enjoy tasting some of them in Tea Club.
To kick of Japanese month (… or 5 weeks) we have the classic Japanese tea Genmaicha, which many of you may have heard of as ‘Popcorn tea’. This unique tea is made up of green tea (Sencha or Bancha), roasted rice and often popcorn. This combination gives a lovely toasty, sweet rice flavour, which goes very well with food. In the past Genmaicha was really only drunk by the poor, who added the puffed rice to their tea to bulk it out as they could not afford pure green tea; however these days it is enjoyed by all echelons of society in Japan and increasingly throughout the world. Our lovely organic Genmaicha is made up of tea leaves of the Yabukita varietal grown in the Kagoshima Prefecture on the Island of Kyusu. This area is situated in the southern-most tip of the South Island, this Prefecture produces around 20% of Japan’s green tea, due to the fantastic subtropical climate, which means that it is prefect for growing almost any kind of tea. The rice comes from the Prefecture of Ehime, which is on the smallest of Japan’s Islands, Shikoku.
Compared to China (which has been producing tea for at least 4000 years) Japan is a relatively new tea producer. The plant (and drink) was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks who had travelled to study in China in the eighth century; Buddhist monks in China had traditionally used tea to keep them awake and alert during meditation. However, it was not until the Zen monk Eisai began to teach that tea should be consumed for its medicinal properties in the twelfth century that tea began to catch on. Finally in the thirteenth century tea was adopted by the upper classes, intellectuals and the Samurai; since then Japan has never looked back and tea has been firmly adopted into their culture.
You will notice during the course of this month that Japanese green tea has a very different character to Chinese green tea. The main reason for this is the Japanese policy of Sakoku during which Japan entirely isolated themselves from the rest of the world between the mid seventeenth and mid nineteenth centuries. This meant that Japanese processing techniques developed entirely independently of China. During this time the technique of steam processing the tea developed, which gives the tea its intense sweet and vegetal flavours.
I held off trying this for a while, partly because I didn't think I would like it. It is a bit like putting your rice crispies and tea in one bowl to save time at breakfast, but oddly the flavour combination sort of works. It certainly made me smile. However, I think I will stick to having tea and toast (or cereal) separately! Thanks again for yet another tea experience I would not have had, if not for the tea club.
Very good. I have tried Genmaicha before but the green tea in this is more intense and not so dominated by the toasted rice flavours. A good balance.
I loved this tea. Truly 'biscuitty' and for me quite moreish. The underlying green tea is definitely there, but in harmony with the toasty taste of those steamed rice kernels. There was no underlying bitterness and no loss of flavour throughout the 3 re-steepings (each at a progressively longer time). I can well see why the Japanese like to drink this at any time through the day.